Welcome to the This Week in Women's WCHA. Each week Ross LaDue from the UW Athletic Communications office breaks down the past weekend of action in the women's side of the WCHA and look ahead to the coming weekend.
There was a lot of goal scoring this past weekend in the WCHA. The winning teams from each series scored a total of 51 goals and each series resulted in a sweep. Wisconsin was the only road team to win, as Minnesota, North Dakota and Bemidji State all swept on home ice this past weekend.
Minnesota State at No. 2 Minnesota
The result of this series was of little surprise. With the Minnesota homecoming football game against Nebraska on Saturday, the Mavericks and Golden Gophers played in a Thursday-Friday matchup. The Gophers won by a modest margin of 3-0 on Thursday before routing the Mavericks 7-0 on Friday. The double shutouts marked the second time this season the Gophers have kept their opponents scoreless, previously against St. Cloud State on Oct. 7-8.
Minnesota players of note: Sophomore Sarah Davis scored twice on Thursday and tallied two helpers on Friday. In the 7-0 win on Friday, Sarah Erickson was the only Gopher to record more than one goal. Megan Bozek and Amanda Kessel were the only two players in the Friday game to record a goal and an assist, Kessel had one goal and two assists. A total of 12 skaters recorded points for the Gophers over the weekend. Freshman Shyler Sletta made her first start in net on Thursday and went on to make 20 saves in her first collegiate start, win and shutout. Junior Noora Räty played on Friday making 19 saves for her third shutout of the season
Minnesota State players of note: Senior goaltender Alli Altmann played in both games for the Mavericks and made an impressive 49 saves off of 52 shots in Thursday's loss. Altmann definitely gave her team a chance to win, but while goaltending may win championships, it doesn't put goals on the board. On Friday, Altmann didn't fare as well, but to her credit, four of the seven goals came on a Gopher power play.
St. Cloud State at Bemidji State
Before the season started, with the loss of the graduation of BSU's top offensive producers, I would have guessed a bit closer matchup. However, the 7-0 stomping over Maine the week prior must have given Bemidji State some offensive confidence. The Beavers lit the lamp a total of 13 times over the weekend while only conceding three goals to the Huskies, two coming off a man-advantage.
Bemidji State players of note: Defenseman Montana Vichorek recorded a six point night netting two goals on Friday, while her D-partner, Marlee Wheelhouse, scored a goal and had three assists. The No. 1 forward line of Tess Dusik, Sadie Lundquist and Emily Erickson had a tremendous weekend netting five goals and recording 11 assists on the weekend. Star goaltender Zuzana Tomcikova turned away 21 of 22 shots on Friday, while Alana McElhinney recorded 23 saves in her second appearance this season.
St. Cloud State players of note: All three goals were scored by different skaters and the only player to record more than one point on the weekend was Haylea Schmid, who had an assist in the first game and scored the Huskies final goal on Saturday. Taylor VanDenakker made her fifth start in net on Friday and concede seven goals on 35 shots. Freshman Julie Friend made her third start of season on Saturday and made 34 stops in the 5-2 loss.
Ohio State at No. 7 North Dakota
This series was the biggest surprise of the weekend. Ohio State has a great offense, but a suspect defense, and North Dakota has a fiery offense. High scores were half expected, but not lopsided scores. After the first 40 minutes of the weekend, the score inside Ralph Engelstad Arena already read Ohio State 1, North Dakota 11. A third period full of penalties would stifle any more scoring as the game would end 11-1. Saturday's game wasn't much better for the Buckeyes as the Sioux walked away with a 7-1 victory. Ohio State's special teams were abysmal as they failed to score a single goal on 13 power-play chances and conceded five goals on 12 Sioux power plays.
North Dakota players of note: After seeing who did the goal production for the Sioux, I was wondering if the conference should scrap Offensive Player of the Week for a more appropriate "Offensive Line of the Week". The No. 1 UND forward line of Monique Lamoreux-Kolls, Jocelyne Lamoureux and Michelle Karvinen put up a combined 25 points in the two games. In Saturday's 7-1 win, the three accounted for all seven goals. Karvinen had a hat trick on Friday and Lamoureux-Kolls had one on Saturday. Stephanie Ney made both starts in net recording a total of 37 saves. In the final 10 minutes of Friday's game, a span that saw seven penalties called, the Sioux put freshman Michelle Bonapace-Potvin in net.
Ohio State players of note: Laura McIntosh was the only goal scorer of the weekend for the Buckeyes. She actually opened the scoring on Saturday, only to be followed by seven UND goals. Natalie Spooner was kept to a -4 plus/minus on the weekend and wasn't able to record a single point. The Ohio State goaltending was a nightmare in net. Lisa Steffes started Friday's game and after letting in four goals on 13 shots within the first 12 minutes, was replaced by Chelsea Knapp, who let in one goal on two shots before the first period was over. Knapp started in the second and after letting in six goals on 11 shots, Steffes went back in for the remainder of the game. Knapp then played all 60 minutes on Saturday making 27 saves.
No. 1 Wisconsin at No. 5/6 Minnesota Duluth
It was another big matchup for the Badgers as they continued along their four-week stretch of playing the nation's top teams. Entering the weekend, the Bulldogs had not been swept on their home ice by the Badgers in eight years. There were points during the weekend when that streak looked as if it was going to continue. In Friday night's game, the Bulldogs held a 2-1 lead after the first period, but a strong second period and a great shorthanded breakaway goal gave the Badgers a 4-3 win. Even on Saturday after Wisconsin jumped out to a 3-0 lead, Minnesota Duluth was drastically out-shooting the Badgers and it was looking like it was just a matter of time until UMD tied things up. Luckily for UW, goaltender Alex Rigsby had one of her best nights in net and turned away 46 of UMD's 49 shots to give Wisconsin the 6-3 win and the weekend sweep.
Wisconsin players of note: Forwards Hilary Knight and Carolyne Prévost both had two goal games, with Knight getting three on the weekend. Knight had the biggest goal of the weekend, scoring the game-winner off a breakaway with fewer than two minutes remaining while shorthanded. Jordan Brickner set her up with the pass and Knight skated down and popped the puck over the blocker of UMD's Jenny Harss. Carolyne Prévost scored twice on Saturday, including the game-winner and an empty netter to secure the win. Brianna Decker also had two goals and one assist on the weekend. In net for the Badgers, Alex Rigsby had one of the best weekends in her career making a total of 80 saves and a career single-game high 46 saves on Saturday. However spectacular Rigsby's play was in net, the highlight of the weekend goes to the goal "scored" by Saige Pacholok. One of the rarest goals in hockey, it came as a result of a UMD gaffe in the second period. With a delayed penalty upcoming, the Bulldogs pulled their goalie for an extra attacker. With the Bulldogs cycling the puck in the UW zone, they misplayed a pass to the point and the puck slid all the way down the ice into the empty net for a Badger goal. It was credited to the last player who touched it, which happened to be the same player the penalty was called on, Saige Pacholok.
Minnesota Duluth players of note: Freshman Jenna McParland scored two goals in the first game of the series. Haley Irwin, member of the Olympic gold-medal winning Canadian team in 2010, tallied two assists in both games. Wong had a relatively quiet weekend as she was kept pointless on Friday and had two assists on Saturday. Irwin, Wong and McParland were the only Bulldogs to record more than one point in either game. Jenny Harss had a fairly solid night in net on Friday making 39 saves, but looked a bit rattled on Saturday only making 13 saves before UMD opted to go with senior Lana Steck for the third period. Steck made 12 saves without conceding a goal.
Possible WCHA Player of the Week winners:
The WCHA players of the week were announced early this week, but it wasn't too hard to predict who was going to win. Monique Lamoureux-Kolls was a shoe-in for Offensive Player of the Week after collecting 10 points, which included a hat trick, over the weekend. Alex Rigsby was also a standout for Defensive Player of the Week with 80 saves and a sweep over a nationally-ranked team. The Rookie of the Week award was also bound to go back to Michelle Karvinen after she posted a seven-point weekend, which, like her linemate Lamoureux-Kolls, included a hat trick.
No. 2 Minnesota at Bemidji State
While Bemidji State's offense has been rolling strong, they haven't faced a defense as stingy as Minnesota's yet. The Beavers play well at home and if they bring their A-game I wouldn't be surprise to see an upset Friday night. BSU will need great goaltending and solid defense to pull it off, because they're not going to win a high scoring game against the Gophers. On Saturday I don't see Minnesota losing, they're one of the fastest teams in the nation, if not the fastest, and they always seem to play better as the weekend progresses. With this being one of the best Gopher squads in a while, if the Beavers don't play near perfect hockey, the Gophers will be headed back to Minneapolis with two wins.
Ohio State at Minnesota State
After Ohio State's train wreck of a weekend against North Dakota anything can happen this weekend against Minnesota State. Both teams are going to be hungry for goals as the Buckeyes only scored twice and the Mavericks didn't score at all last weekend. On paper the series looks like it should be a sweep for the Buckeyes, but both teams are plagued by inconsistency in net. Ohio State has the better offense, but that didn't matter much against North Dakota. If MSU goalie Ali Altmann has a great weekend and the Maverick offense shows up, I wouldn't be surprised to see a split, or the Buckeyes getting a win and a tie.
No. 6 North Dakota at No. 7 Minnesota Duluth
This will be a great series to see firsthand. Both teams are very aggressive on the forecheck so special teams will be a major factor in this game, as a lot of penalties can be expected. I wouldn't want to be a goaltender in this series as UND's offense is on fire and Minnesota Duluth's head coach Shannon Miller will have her team ready to bounce back after getting swept by Wisconsin. A weekend split sounds reasonable if the Lamoureux's limit their penalties. Though, if the Lamouruex's are stuck in the box, UMD's power-play will run over the North Dakota defense and goaltending.
Robert Morris at St. Cloud State
Robert Morris split earlier with Minnesota State, but this may be a decent chance for St. Cloud State to get a win. I wouldn't be surprised to see freshman goaltender Julie Friend to get the start in the first game. She played well enough against Bemidji State last weekend and has the only win for SCSU this year. If the Huskies get good goaltending, I could see St. Cloud State getting their second win on the season, but I feel like Robert Morris will most likely get two wins.
No. 4/5 Boston University at No. 1 Wisconsin
While this is a rematch of last year's title game, the Boston University squad entering Madison is far from the same that played against the Badgers in Erie, Pa., last March. The Terriers will be without star forward Marie-Philip Poulin, who got hurt in the opening-weekend series against North Dakota. BU also lost some key seniors to graduation, so the roster won't be quite as deep as it was in March. The Badgers will need to rely on their strong defensive play this weekend and possibly look to convert more chances on their struggling power-play unit.